Saturday, August 25, 2018

Special Birds of the Brazilian (Eastern) Amazon

A Week at a Remote Birding Site near Paragominas, Pará

Sunday, July 1 2018 - Belém

I really wanted to get to the (proper) Amazon this year and had a surprisingly hard time doing it.  The first plan fell through when flight schedules changed, the second never really settled, so by the time I left Sao Paulo on my way to Belém I was hoping that my third attempt was going to pan out.  This trip was organized by Brazil birding veteran Andy Whitaker, who had arranged for me to meet with local birding expert Pablo Vieira Cerqueira and to head off to a remote logging camp in a private reserve about nine hours South of Belém near Paragominas.  He promised basic conditions, high humidity, but also great birds so I was excited to get going and, after a few pampered days in Sao Paulo, I felt ready to get out there into the forest.

With time to spare after my afternoon flight arrival, and suspecting that I'd be itching to bird, Pablo took us directly to Park Estadual do Utinga, a suburban forest patch/park that with concrete biking trails and the like.  It actually produced a few lifers with the spiffy Red-necked Aracari and the tricky Green-tailed Goldenthroat joining the list before a very pleasant dinner at Belém's newly redeveloped dockland area.   Not a bad start ...

Red-necked Aracari
Monday, July 2 - Saturday, July 7 - Fazenda Cauaxi, Paragominas

OK, so Andy Whitaker was right ... the drive was very long, the accommodations were basic, the humidity was high and the food was monotonous.  We were staying in a logging camp, the huts were hot and stuffy, the spiders and cockroaches were large, and the facilities were basic.  BUT, the welcome was warm, the locals were friendly, and the birds .... well yes, they were good.

Accommodations and Greater Yellow-headed Vulture
(they were always looking for hand-outs at camp)

The highlight of the drive down was watching Brazil beat Mexico in a World Cup Football match at a roadside restaurant on the way ... we later skipped the Belgium match and were glad we did.  With little internet though, our connection to the outside world was tenuous and that left little to do but do birding.  So we basically went birding from before dawn until siesta time, then from late afternoon until well after dark every day.  In six days we racked up around 250 species and while it's hard to capture all of those things, here are some of the highlights:

An evening stake-out for GOLDEN PARAKEETS, that most Brazilian of birds, proudly sporting the national green-and-gold colors, and the bird I most wanted to see on this trip  We waited for them to return to their roost site, in fact we waited several hours.  Then, just before dusk, a group flew in and shot straight into the roost hole without waiting for me to get get good photos or savor the scene ... not quite the plan ... but at least we saw others in flight several other times.

Golden Parakeets at their roost site
A GUIANAN RED COTINGA in a mixed flock and GOULD'S TOUCANETS in the canopy at dawn.  Two very colorful and charismatic rarities that were high on my list and exciting to see.

Gould's Toucanet (I love anything with the world Gould in it ...
John Gould is a bit of a personal hero)
A successful search for the very range-restricted RED-AND-BLACK GROSBEAK and even a few bad photos to show for it.

Red-and-black Grosbeak ... it's hard to photograph birds in the dark
of the deep forest.

A magical dawn encounter with a pair of WHITE-WINGED POTOOS (a form sure to be split from the Atlantic Coast birds I saw last year).  A quick whistle and the birds called back and then went hunting, flying overheard and silhouetted against the lightening sky and the leaves and vines of the canopy.  We also had Long-tailed Potoo, Common Potoo and a good selection of nightjars and owls on this trip, but then we did spend a fair amount of time out at night.

Quirky Amazonian Parrots like VULTURINE PARROT, Dusky Parrot and Red-fan Parrot.

Getting to grips with the birds we worked really hard for like Guianan Gnatcatcher (the future Pará Gnatcatcher), Hooded Gnateater, the local Amazonian Barred-Woodcreeper (the future Todd's Woodcreeper), Cryptic Forest-Falcon, and Snethlage's Antpitta.

My first trumpeters, and them being the very restricted and hard to see Black-backed form of the DARK-WINGED TRUMPETER (another future split).  Trumpeters are really the soul of the Amazon and it took me way too long to finally see one.  I seem to have specialized in the edges of the Amazon so definitely need to spend more time in the deep forest for species like this.

White Hawk and Pearly Parakeets

And even two species that at the time didn't even have 'official' names.  A currently un-described megascops presently sitting in Tawny-bellied Screech Owl (Andean) but clearly a different species, and what eBird currently has listed as the Maranhao-Piaui Pygmy-Tyrant (un-described form).

I'd also hoped for some mammals.  From Andy's descriptions he was constantly being stalked by Pumas and Jaguars here and had to chase Tapirs off the trail at every turn.  Alas the mammals didn't show for us, or at least nothing scarier than South American Coati, some monkeys, a glimpse of a Jaguarundi, and a Crab-eating Fox.  One day I will see Jaguar and Tapir in Brazil ... it just wasn't to be in this trip.

South American Coati
Soon enough though, our time was over and I warned Pablo that our last dinner, back in Belém would NOT have rice and beans (and certainly no mystery meat gristle), but would rather feature fish and caipirinhas ... luckily he knew just the place and we feasted in local seafood with local açaí and cocktails made of local fruit (and all after hot showers at the hotel).

Sunday, July 8 - Belém

There was time for one more star bird before my flight the next day though.  The BLACK-CHESTED TYRANT is a very local bird with a poorly known range.  It's also a stunner so I was keen to see one given the chance and so, before my flight back to Sao Paulo, we birded some lowland forest along the river just outside Belém.  The flycatcher it turned out was easy to hear at a known site, harder to see and even harder to photograph ... in the end I managed only slight out-of-focus shots but I'll include them anyway because it's such a special bird.

The super special Black-chested Tyrant
Then back to the world.  But, even after my second birding trip to Brazil this year (and the third in the last two years) I'll definitely be back to this amazing country.  So many places I want to go and things I want to see.

No comments:

Post a Comment